Friday, November 30, 2007
Kucinich Sells Out?
I wrestle with my Kucinich feelings. On one hand, he is my ideological soul mate. I agree with pretty much every policy argument that comes out of his mouth. He actually embodies a voting option between right and left--the FAR left where I reside.

However, on the other hand, he doesn't stand a chance in hell in being our nominee. And when I see him "perform" in the debates--taking out his cell phone or talking about how he believes in UFO's (so do I but who the heck cares?!?!)--I want to shake him. I think he purposely makes himself seem crazy. I want to remind him that you can be radical without being a radical. You can frame a far left message to the mainstream. But the way to do that is not the Kucinich way.

So. Struggle. Ultimately, I endorse more mainstream candidates.

And, how glad am I that I have not given him a single cent? Um, VERY. VERY GLAD. Especially with his new idea about his running mate. Kucinich suggested on Monday that he would select (crazy, conservative, libertarian) Ron Paul as his running mate. Obviously this isn't going to happen. I know that. Not only will Kucinich not get the nomination but I doubt Paul would agree to the marriage of liberalism and libertarianism. Sure, they are bonded by a common desire to immediately withdrawal our troops. But they are divided on every! other! single! thing!

It is reasonable to be confused to why (if I know this isn't going to happen) I would devote time to complaining about it. The reason is this--Kucinich doesn't get to be THAT guy. The idealist. The hope. The Leftist. He doesn't get to be THAT guy and also be the guy who sells out and picks someone who is his antithesis in order to achieve ONE goal. I get that the war is important. I get that. I am pro-peace/anti occupation. But I am also pro-choice, pro-social programs, pro-taxes. I don't forget my other beliefs simply because I am anti-war. I am against the Right's war on the domestic front. I am anti hate here at home. I thought Kucinich was as well. I was wrong.

At least I don't struggle with my feelings for him any longer.


Friday Flicks v.2
In an outstanding example of familial sharing, my bro-in-law left behind his copy of Kinky Boots when he visited the ATH last month. He thought I might just like it.

And I did! A great deal.

Kinky Boots:

Charles Price may have grown up with his father in the family shoe business, but he never thought that he would take his father's place. Yet, the untimely death of his father places him in that position, only to learn that Price & Sons Shoes is failing. While in despair at his failed attempts to save the business, Charles has a chance encounter with the flamboyant drag queen cabaret singer, Lola. Her complaints about the inadequate footwear for her work combined with one of Charles' ex-employees, Lauren, leads to a suggestion to change the product to create a desperate chance to save the business: make men's fetish footwear. Lola is convinced to be their footwear designer and the transition begins. Now this disparate lot must struggle at this unorthodox idea while dealing both the prejudice of the staff, Lola's discomfort in the small town and the selfish manipulation of Charles' greedy fiancée who cannot see the greater good in Charles' dream.

The book had a few hang ups--mainly revolving around the formulaic romantic relationship--Boy engaged to girl who sucks. But boy just happens upon girl who doesn't suck. Boy and cool girl fall in love.

However, the good far outweighed the bad....

Obviously there aren't a lot of roles for flamboyant drag queens. Normally drag queens are forced into certain roles--the bad ones. The are portrayed as sexually deviant. Or they are social outcasts. Or perhaps they live their lives alone and isolated--to further reinforce that you should experiment with gender less you want to end up alone and miserable. At the very least, the plot does not deal with the complicated gender trouble that drag presents. Many people will (inaccurately) refer to drag queens as "cross-dressers" or assume they "want to be women." So, so flawed and evidence that our society is uncomfortable with gender ambiguity and diversity. Society is perfectly okay with drag queens as long as we can fit them into categories such as man/woman. This movie was fascinating because Lola lived as a women, a man, and there were scenes in which she was a man in make-up and a woman without her wig. A really interesting gender study. That being sad, I was a little unhappy that at the end of the movie, Lola was uncoupled and the "third wheel" to his new heterosexual friends. I would have liked the movie to explore some romantic options for her. But baby steps...we'll take it!

The movie was MADE by Chiwetel Ejofor (the hot husband in Love Actually) as Lola. Ejofor was absolutely stunning. Mesmerizing.

You should check it out. Even if you don't hate binary gender and don't view the movie with a feminist lens, you will enjoy it. Very entertaining.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007
Reading Dangerously
I'm debating joining the "My Year of Reading Dangerously" challenge. The challenge encourages readers to read a genre/book/author that intimidates them each month of the year. I'm hesitant because it seems a bit much to read 12 daunting books! I'm also fickle and get in the mood to read certain books at certain times. I don't do well sticking to a reading schedule. Also--I'm afraid I'll feel like a giant loser when/if I fall off from the challenge.

BUT! I think the challenge may provide some motivation for me to read those classics I've been putting off and all the feminist works I'm ashamed I haven't read. As a feminist and a "reader" I'm embarrassingly unread.

It may help if others that I know *cough* take on this challenge with me. You can sign up here. If you don't have a list of books already, you can read the ones pre-selected by the challenge or steal some of mine.

Let me know if you decide to do it!

Look at me reading dangerously...
January: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens*
February: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison*
March: Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood*
April: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
May: Virginia Woolf selection
June: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
July: Persuasion by Jane Austen
August: Fire With Fire by Naomi Wolf
September: The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy*
October: The Human Stain by Philip Roth*
November:Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
December: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck*

* Denotes "official" challenge books

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Sunday, November 25, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 4

This week the New York Times announced their 100 Notable Books of the Year for 2007. The list is a blend of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. What I love about the list is (a) how exhaustive it is and (b) that no matter how religiously I read their book reviews, there are always great books that I haven't heard about.

Their number one book is the Abstinence Teacher which has been on my list for a while. I'm hoping to read it over the holiday break. has a list as well...they break it down into editors' picks and reader picks.

Speaking of the NYT and books, do you read Paper Cuts? It is a book blog written by their senior book editor and is all kinds of fantastic. My favorite feature is that every Wednesday they feature a writer's top ten song list. Lovely. Another great feature is that on Mondays they do a round-up of all the Sunday papers' book review sections. Brilliant.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I worked my way through a very fantastic but dense book. Special Topics in Calamity Physics defied my expectations. I expected to enjoy the story since I was so intrigued by the description:

Calamity Physics: The resulting explosion of energy, light, heartbreak and wonder as Blue van Meer enters a small, elite school in a sleepy mountain town. Blue's highly unusual past draws her to a charismatic group of friends at St. Gallaway and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. A sudden drowning, a series of inexplicable events, and finally the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries. And Blue is left to make sense of it all with only her gimlet-eyed instinct and cultural lexicon to guide her.

But I never expected to be so captivated by the story. Marisha Pessl received mixed reviews for this book. Many people found it a bit too detailed and even off-putting. The critiques are understandable. Pessl weaves her complex story with many, many literary references. At times it does seem that she is trying a bit too hard. Or at the very least, she is trying to name drop all the authors she has been forced to read over the years. (it should be noted that she is clearly incredibly well-read) To be sure, the book should not be shared with with every reader. At 514 pages, it is an investment. However, when the reader realizes that Blue truly does use literature and authors to guide her life, the many references are understandable and even enjoyable. While I did get a bit bogged down with all the details in the first 200 pages (the book took me forever to plow through), the last 200 pages were magical and I was glad I had stuck with it and paid attention.

The storytelling is impeccable. The characters are interesting. The dialogue is witty. The vocabulary is mesmerizing. I read somewhere that Pessl is only 28. To say the least, I am jealous. However, I am also so happy to discover another young writer to join the ranks of Eggers and Foer.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 3

Besides college football, nothing says fall like being curled up under a blanket with a good book and a pot of soup of the stove. That said, I haven't been doing nearly enough reading! However, I did finish a really great book last week. Coincidently enough a new blog I've been reading did an interview with the author. I took both as a sign I should write about the book.

Songs Without Words is Ann Packer's follow up novel to her well-received, The Dive From Claussen's Pier. Despite being widely hailed, I never picked up TDFCP for one reason or another. However, when I read the plot to her latest work, I was intrigued.

Publisher's Weekly describes Songs as:
a richly nuanced meditation on the place of friendship in women's lives. Liz and Sarabeth's childhood friendship deepened following Sarabeth's mother's suicide when the girls were 16; now the two women are in their 40s and living in the Bay Area. Responsible mother-of-two Liz has come to see eccentric, bohemian Sarabeth, with her tendency to enter into inappropriate relationships with men, as more like another child than as a sister or mutually supportive friend. When Liz's teenage daughter, Lauren, perpetuates a crisis, Liz doubts her parenting abilities; Sarabeth is plunged into uncomfortable memories; and the hidden fragilities of what seemed a steadfast relationship come to the fore. Packer adroitly navigates Lauren's teen despair, Sarabeth's lonely longings and Liz's feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

What that review does not highlight is the exhaustion the reader will feel as she accompanies Liz and Sarabeth on this journey. I felt emotionally wrought and utterly confused as the book switched between characters' narrations and feelings. The book was incredible in the sense that multiple characters participated in the narration, all telling the same story but with completely different words. All the while I was, turning page after page, not knowing who to feel more love/hate for.

Packer tells the story with love and compassion for each character. They are all deeply flawed and full of regret. As a reader, you feel their longing and even feel some of your own--as the story makes you reflect upon your life choices and perhaps your lack of friendship at a time of need. When you read the book you will find a little bit of Liz and a little bit of Sarabeth in you. And that is exactly what makes the book so real and so haunting.

I highly recommend the book. It is perfect for a fall afternoon..and you'll probably read well into the night.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007
Yesterday the House passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) granting protection against workplace discrimination for sexual orientation. The bill amends the federal Civil Rights Act and makes it illegal for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.” This move is significant as only 19 states have laws banning such discrimination. So! This is happy news.

Even happier, for me, was that one of my Women's Studies students came into class today and informed everyone about the development. She said that she had been obsessively checking CNN for an update and upon passage talked about the significance with her roommate. HOORAH for engaged students.

But it isn't all ensure bill passage, Democrats had to remove language protecting transsexual and transgendered individuals. Further proof that we (as a public) refuse to recognize gender diversity. If one identifies as a man and loves another man, we recognize you shouldn't be discriminated against. But what happens if you have male sex organs but identify as a female and love both men and women? Advocates need to work toward more gender identity protection.

To sign the ORIGINAL petition, go HERE

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I-Tues v.4
I am bi-polar when it comes to music. Kristen One enjoys slow, mellow, heartbreaking music. The music that makes Drew say "can we please listen to something that doesn't make me want to kill myself" when he gets home from work. Kristen Two is into over-the-top pop. I love cheese, sing song melodies and head bopping. My brother-in-law recently introduced Kristen Two to the Pipettes. The Pipettes are a British indie pop [girl] group who are all kinds of awesome. Big hair, polka dot dresses and 50's dancing. I cannot get enough! Check em out....

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Sunday, November 04, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 2
This week was Fall Fiction Week at Slate. Lots of really interesting stories including this one asking contemporary authors to reveal their "greatest literary omissions." Not surprising, many have not read Harry Potter (although I'm not sure Harry Potter can be counted as "great" literature at this time--if ever) or Moby Dick (does anyone really read Moby Dick?). I was very surprised to see Jane Austen mentioned. Austen? Really?

Anyway, I had to confront the most important book I've never read. *confronting* I don't even know when to begin. To say the least, I don't often get down with the classic works. So in order to narrow it down, I've decided to admit the greatest feminist books I've never read. The list is vast and embarrassing.

1. I've never read anything by Virginia Woolf
2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
3. Sexual Politics by Kate Millett
4. Fire with Fire by Naomi Wolf (This book is sitting beside by bed currently waiting to be read)

It feels good to get that off my chest. But now I am organized and determined to read some of the classic feminist works that I've missed.

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Friday, November 02, 2007
Dear Students,
Ever since I read this post by the Tenured Radical, I've been thinking about things I wish you knew. The pedagogical relationship between student and teacher is a complicated one--constantly ebbing and flowing, loving and hating, teaching and learning.

1. Students teach me things. They teach me about pop culture, university happenings, and new interpretations on old texts that I read a long time ago. Importantly, they also teach me about the barometer of our culture. Often when I leave class, I feel energized by the potential that my students show as activists and people. I don't think professors remind their students how much we learn from them. Further, many professors aren't open to learning from their students.

2. I like when you stay after class to tell me a funny story or further develop an idea you had in class. I really like it when you come early or stay late and show me an anti-feminist e-mail you've received or an empowering video on Youtube. It makes me feel like you're learning and it really makes me realize how much thinking you're doing. I love my job. I love coming to class. I love being with you. I love talking about my discipline. As such, I love when you do the same. Never hesitate to send me an e-mail or have a conversation with me!

3. I have a life outside of class and I like when students realize this--mainly because it makes me feel human. But also because it then means you don't e-mail me at 1 am and expect an immediate response.

4. When we happen to stumble across one another outside school, it is okay to say hi or give a friendly wave. It is not okay to buy me a drink. It is definitely not okay to gossip about me to fellow classmates.

5. I know that there are days you aren't reading. I know that you may fail a quiz or test. But I know that you are smart and capable. You don't have to explain yourself or beg for my forgiveness. Everyone has bad days at work. When good students do poorly on an assignment, I assume you're having a bad day.

6. I'm proud when you have a school related scholarship. I do not, however, see it as my responsibility to maintain that scholarship. I will provide you with every imaginable opportunity to learn, excel and achieve. If you do not take advantage of those opportunities, I will give you a bad grade. The default grade is not an A. I assume a certain amount of "average" in each student. When you prove you are above average, you will receive above average grades.

7. I have 80+ students this semester. I know ALL of your names. I expect you to know (and spell correctly) my last name. Consider it good practice for the workforce.

That's my list...I've been ruminating about it for the past couple weeks.

And then I watched THIS video and realized that sometimes pedagogical goals need to be larger than the semester at hand. This guy really gets me. I love me a good teacher! I love how he starts out talking about "enabling the dreams of others." Isn't that the heart of a good teacher?

And my question to my teacher blogging friends is--what lessons do you want your students to know? Feel free to post in the comments.....